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Monday, February 3, 2020

Mortlach Rare Old

Nearly 1200 reviews here, but only 1 of Mortlach single malt. No, I'm not of the Mortlach cult, though I do like some of some fruity bourbon cask Morts I've had from indie bottlers. And I enjoyed watching Diageo's flubbed attempt to force an ultra luxury version of Mortlach (the bottles!) upon a market that did not want it. And I reveled even deeper in the irony-free hyper technicolor cheerleading of this branding, led by the usual industry apologists and industry employees masquerading as bloggers.

But the story didn't end with that Mortlach rebranding. Diageo has been known to pivot and adjust when something is not working. Yes, that Diageo. As mentioned in last year's post about single malt prices in America, the Big D has been leading the way on stabilizing the prices of their single malt in reaction to the market since 2016. And with Mortlach they knew enough to stop and reboot because Protzig Morty wasn't working.

But more about the new stuff next time. This time I'm going to review Rare Old, the Mortlach that was neither rare nor old, the Mortlach without an age statement, the Mortlach with an SRP of $140 in 2014. In February of 2016 I found this bottle of Rare Old.

Yes, that is $42.99, not $142.99. Such was the whisky's popularity. I then included it in that month's OC Scotch Club event. Here is the remaining pour from that bottle:

Distillery: Mortlach
Owner: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: NAS
Maturation: first fill American and European oak casks, refill casks, rejuvenated casks, all the casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43.4%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Colorant added? Yes

The nose begins with both a dirty, earthy edge and some sunny sugar. And they don't mix. Then there are flowers and brief peaches. The dirtier side recedes leaving flowers, Jolly Ranchers and a little bit of milk chocolate to make up the whole. The palate is mild but peppery, nuttier than I expected; specifically a mix of almond butter and honey. Lots of Milk Duds (caramel + milk chocolate). Milk Duds and pepper finish things up. A slight zippy horseradish note lingers in the background, as does some more honey.

Other than sheer size, blending has historically been Diageo's greatest strength. But that is not showcased in Mortlach Rare Old. Not only are there four (or six) types of casks in the mix, but according to Ruben there are three spirit styles as well. These parts never congeal, so it feels like there are at least two whiskies battling it out throughout. Cuddly cask-driven chocolatey Speysider versus Burly spirity Northern Highlander. No one wins and everything remains partisan. *cough* As a result this Mortlach would make for an interesting $40 whisky but an unfortunate $140 whisky.

Availability - It is not in short supply in the US
Pricing - from $60 to $160
Rating - 79

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